Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If you're going to make up quotes, don't make up Dylan quotes

I see another smart young writer from a smart publication has been caught misrepresenting quotes, this time from Bob Dylan. That's never a good idea.

Jonah Lehrer claimed that the quotes came from an unreleased interview done for the film No Direction Home. He said that he'd been given access to this by Jeff Rosen, who is not so much Dylan's manager as his Boswell. An experienced editor would have raised an eyebrow at this point because this kind of thing doesn't happen.

Oddly enough, while artists and their representatives rarely complain about being misquoted, their most devoted fans are often the first to smell a rat. It's these people that Lehrer should have been worried about because they know the most and care the most.

I interviewed Bob Dylan in 1986 for a magazine which was yet to be announced. I got back from New York later that week and was accosted, at a press event, by somebody who said "I understand you interviewed Bob Dylan on Tuesday night".

That was my first meeting with the late John Bauldie, at the time Britain's leading "Bobcat". I was spooked by the fact that he knew. However the more I learned about John's world - and this was in the days before the web accelerated the sharing of information between like minds - the more I realised that there are some artists who are not so much followed as stalked. Dylan is foremost among that group. The stalkers may not know everything straightaway but they get to know everything eventually. Lehrer should have picked somebody else.


  1. I think that Bob Dylan summed-up this incident best in the fourth verse of his career-defining 1960s protest song - The Times They Are A-Changin':

    "Don't be a staff writer
    for the New Yorker called
    Jonah Lehrer and falsify quotes
    by Bob Dylan so that you
    have to resign from your
    job when you are
    inevitably found out
    for the times they are a-changin'"

  2. It's enough to generate 20 pounds of headlines but they might end up stapled to his chest.

  3. It's a pity that Dylan himself didn't take your advice, when he palmed off his Asian paintings as 'original' when they were copied from well known photographs. And who shopped him? Yes, his own obsessive fans:

    Seems they're all at it

  4. Jakob Dylan, interviewed by Adam Corolla on a podcast I was listening to recently, commented that he was surprised Lehrer got into trouble about this because his dad has a general desire to be misquoted as often and as drastically as possible.